29 Sep 14. The UK MoD announced that the British Army’s next generation of Unmanned Air System (UAS), Watchkeeper, is now fully operational in Afghanistan. This new capability is providing force protection for British troops as they prepare to draw down from Afghanistan by the end of this year. Footage released shows Watchkeeper carrying out surveillance tasks and gaining situational awareness via its cutting edge cameras and radar capability, a new asset for the UK’s Armed Forces.
Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, made the announcement on a visit to Kabul alongside Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton – who also visited Camp Bastion where he met the Army personnel and saw Watchkeeper flying operationally. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said, “Watchkeeper is the first Unmanned Air System developed and built in the UK to become operational and will be a significant surveillance and reconnaissance capability for the Army for years to come. There is no doubt that it will prove to be a battle-winning technology. Watchkeeper will provide real-time information for troops conducting operations on the ground, allowing them to understand better and thereby overcome threats they may face.”
Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Houghton said, “I was delighted to see Watchkeeper in operational use earlier this week when I visited British and ISAF forces in Afghanistan. The enhanced real-time situational awareness Watchkeeper provides means that our local understanding is greater, our tactical decisions better informed and that, ultimately, personnel on the ground are safer.”
Gathering crucial information from the battlefield, Watchkeeper, built by Thales UK, will provide UK troops with life-saving surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence. It will also give personnel on the ground greater situational awareness, helping to reduce the risk of threats. Before reaching this milestone, Watchkeeper, which is unarmed, underwent extensive flight trials at West Wales Airport, Parc Aberporth followed by the Army’s highly skilled pilots completing their training at Boscombe Down airfield. Following the handover of Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, the Unmanned Air System will return home to Wiltshire where Royal Artillery troops will continue to train with the system in a restricted airspace over Salisbury Plain.
29 Sep 14. Northrop Grumman Corporation is developing new, advanced unmanned systems to support the Department of Defense’s capability to deploy global persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and strike capabilities in a faster and more cost-effective way.
The next-generation Tactical Exploited Reconnaissance Node (Tern) program is one example of several in progress focused on addressing various customer challenges. Designed to operate off small-deck U.S. Navy vessels, Tern would enable greater mission capability and flexibility without the need for establishing fixed land bases or deploying aircraft carriers. Currently under the joint leadership of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research, Tern aims to improve aviation capabilities from smaller ships substantially beyond the current levels. Tern seeks to develop a semi-autonomous, long-range, persistent ISR/strike asset that could safely and dependably deploy and recover from small-deck naval maritime vessels with minimal ship modifications.
29 Sep 14. A system to allow air- and ground-based robot vehicles to work together. A system to allow air- and ground-based robot vehicles to work together, without GPS signals or expensive sensor devices, is being developed by a team at Yonsei University in Korea. This could be used by unmanned vehicle teams to explore environments, ranging from farms here on earth to the surfaces of other worlds. Unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) are already used for a number of “3D jobs” (dangerous, dirty or difficult), including bomb disposal and exploring th